After experiencing loan spells in the Football League, Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Ryan Mason are now first-team regulars at Tottenham and have won senior caps for England.
Now Grant Ward is hoping to be the latest in Spurs’ impressive pool of young talent to follow in that trio’s path after making the temporary move from White Hart Lane to Championship side Rotherham United.
Since his summer switch, the 20-year-old, who spent the end of last term at Coventry, has made 15 appearances for the Millers and showed the country his potential with a stunning strike against Burnley in October.
The London-born midfielder also has the unique experience for a young Englishman of having tasted MLS football with Chicago Fire, where he spent the 2014 campaign.
But, for the time being, Ward tells Shoot that he aims to keep Rotherham in the Championship, before looking to make a name for himself on these shores with Spurs.
You’ve signed for Rotherham on loan until January. How have you enjoyed your time at the New York Stadium?
“Since I’ve been here I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a bit up and down and obviously I’m quite young so I’m just working on my form at the minute and trying to help the team as best as possible.”
There’s been a change of manager since you’ve arrived, but from a player’s point of view is it business as usual?
“I’ve just got to go and do my job, really. I don’t have any influence over the manager’s position, so obviously with the new manager coming in I’ve had to try to impress him (Neil Redfearn) like I did the old one (Steve Evans). I like him anyway; I can speak to him if you need any advice because after all he’s just a normal guy.”
What’s Neil Redfearn brought to the squad since he’s come in?
“Firstly he’s brought in a few new additions who have played well, but he’s also brought in a bit more stability to the side. I also think there’s a bit less pressure with him, which helps because I can express myself a bit more. He works a bit more with the shape of the team as we’re 4-4-2 now, and in training we do more possession type drills like I’m used to back at Tottenham. I’ve enjoyed playing under him.”
Can Rotherham stay in the Championship?
“I think we’ll stay up, definitely. We’ve got a good squad overall and most games we’ve been a bit unlucky results wise, as we’ve put in good performances but struggled to pick up points. But come the end of the season, I think we’ll be fine.”
You’ve appeared 15 times and scored a cracker against Burnley, are you happy with your individual performances?
“Yeah I’ve been happy overall. There have been a few games that I thought I could have done a bit more but so far I think I’ve performed pretty well. The games at the start of my time here, especially against MK Dons, I think I could have done more with the ball. But I’m still young and am still learning with each game I play in.”
Rotherham have had a tight knit squad over recent years, so did you settle in quickly and who’s helped you the most?
“I feel like I’ve settled in well and I feel as though all the guys and staff have been very friendly with me. Even off the field, up north everyone seems very friendly. I’m probably closest to Jonson Clarke-Harris and Jordan Bowery but everyone’s chipped in to help me out.
After your loan spell with Coventry, how determined were you to experience playing on a regular basis again?
“Very determined. I wanted to go out again on loan to get some more experience and maybe play at a higher level so that’s one reason why I chose to go to Rotherham because they’re in the Championship. I enjoyed my time at Coventry with it being my first loan spell in England, so it was a good test of me being there for the last 12 games with the team staying up. I also enjoyed playing under Tony Mowbray.
What are the main differences you’ve noticed playing U-21s to senior football in England?
“The games are a lot more competitive because obviously there’s something more important on the line. But U-21s is more about development so you can learn to improve. Obviously in the first-team you’ve got to improve as well but it’s more about winning at the end of the day. That’s why it’s so important to go out on loan and develop that winning mentality.”
You spent most of 2014 on loan in America playing for Chicago Fire. What was that experience like for a young player?
“I thought it was a good standard out there. When I was playing for Fire there weren’t many televised games but there are a lot more on TV now. It was obviously my first loan and I was out there by myself. When I first went out there it was a bit hard, leaving behind all my family but I settled in quickly and enjoyed it in America. Overall it was a very good experience.
Would a career in the MLS be something you would consider in the future?
“I definitely wouldn’t turn it down but I want to try to progress my career in England to start with. After playing in the MLS though and experiencing it first hand it’s a choice that one day I may take.”
You underwent surgery just before you joined Fire. How difficult was that to come back from, both physically and mentally?
“It was tough, to be honest. I got the knock when I was out there because I went out there for a couple of weeks in pre-season. When I came back I didn’t really know the severity of my injury. I signed the loan and I was about to go out just before I had the scan. It was tough because I was going into the season late, so it felt as though I was catching up but that can happen in football. I was looking at results from the sidelines and the team wasn’t doing too well either, so I just wanted to get out there and play.”
Do you see yourself challenging for a spot in a strong Spurs squad come January when your loan ends, or do you feel another loan would benefit you?
“To be honest, I’m not really sure at the minute, that’s something I’ll have to discuss with Tottenham when the time comes. I want to stay in England and fight for a place in the side for sure, but we’ll have to wait and see what will happen in the future.”
A lot of young players have been given a chance by Mauricio Pochettino, does that give you added confidence that you could make it at White Hart Lane in the future?
“I think he’s a good manager and there’s been a lot of players who have broken through recently, so I have a lot of confidence that I’ll be able to make an impact on the team in the future. I’ve trained with the first-team a few times, I’ve spoken to Pochettino and he’s been good to me. In the coming years I’d like to be a regular in the Spurs first-team. That’s the aim.”
Footballing Idol – Ronaldinho
Boyhood Club – I didn’t really follow one club, I just liked playing
Favourite Meal – Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas
Worst Dressed Player at Rotherham – Greg Halford (now on loan at Birmingham)
Favourite Film – Pursuit of Happiness